THE BIFF IS BACK – BIFF 2019 PART I – ‘MIDNIGHT FAMILY’ REVIEW AVAILABLE ON WEEKEND NOTES

Image result for brisbane international film festival 2019

 

BIFF IS BACK! The Brisbane International Film Festival is back for another year and long term readers will recall my affection for it. I volunteered at BIFF in 2004, 2005 and 2007. In 2008 I was down to see over 20 movies and met my future wife on the steps of the Palace Cinema on James Street. We lost a BIFF for a while there but it returned in 2017 where I attended with Karen for the first time Opening Night. I was also on assignment with Scenestr magazine to review Australia Day and then last year I was on assignment for Scenestr on opening night.

This year I was wrapping up a work secondment writing for the Queensland College of Teachers so missed Opening Night and ended up sitting out the first few days of the festival.

 

20191009_194528.jpg
New Farm Cinemas foyer after seeing ‘Midnight Family’. Copyright Lloyd Marken.

 

Yet on Wednesday 09OCT2019 at New Farm Cinemas Karen and I attended a 6:15pm session of Midnight Family missing the first few minutes. All up, I have bought tickets to see five films at BIFF 2019 with three of them being docos. I can’t wait to see them all and share with you.

 

Weekend Notes 15.jpg

 

Midnight Family was a great documentary about private ambulance crews in Mexico City. I was lucky enough to have my review published at Weekend Notes which continues on from my first reviews published with them last year being reviews for films I saw BIFF. You can read my review here https://www.weekendnotes.com/midnight-family-film-review-brisbane-international-film-festival-2019/

Weekend Notes are a growing online magazine with a wealth of contributors based out of several cities across the United Kingdom, Australia and New York. Articles are leisure related and can include a wide variety of subjects from rainforest hikes to cultural festivals, from what hot new play is on at your underground theatre to a ultra trendy eatery. Writers are paid for their work based partly on how many views their articles get so please feel free to stop by and show some love.

-Lloyd Marken

 

100 POSTS PUBLISHED WITH SCENESTR

20170321_215014
The night of my first assignment for Scenestr magazine 21MAR207. Copyright Karen Marken.

Last Friday I reached a milestone with Scenestr magazine, I have now had 100 posts published with them online or in their printed copies on the street. This all started with a review I submitted to them of Hidden Figures that Karen had won tickets to see. The review was published 23 February, 2017.

Within a couple of months I realised if I wanted to make the most of my opportunities there I would have to put my hand up to do interviews. Despite having done this in the past at university I was still quite nervous when I did my first interview with the stars of Grease: The Arena Spectacular Meghan O’Shea and Drew Weston almost two years ago. Knowing it scared me made me confident it would be truly rewarding and that turned out to be true.

In 2018 there were 50 posts published online of my work, it is doubtful I will match that output moving forward, there are things I am currently pursuing away from Scenestr but I am grateful to continue my work for the biggest street press magazine in the country.

The opportunity Scenestr gives writers and how that flows onto the rest of the print industry is extraordinary. I hope to be working for them for a long time yet.

Of the 100 posts published, 10% were reviews of stand-up comedians and their shows, 29% were theatre reviews, 28% were film reviews, 32% were interviews and 1% were reviews of Cher concerts.

Allow me to indulge in pointing out some personal highlights such as interviewing DeAnne Smith, Ali McGregor, Palace Cinemas CEO Benjamin Zeccola, Gravity and Other Myths circus performer Jascha Boyce, theatre director Row Blackshaw, Cassie George, talking to director Clare Watson about Our Town, an interview with comedian Sammy J, and my cover story with SNL star Michael Che.

Going to the Young Australian Filmmakers Programme at Byron Bay Film Festival and talking to young director Cody-Cameron Brown about Don Ritchie, OAM, introducing my wife to the cast of Aladdin backstage, a dinner with Lauren Weisberger where my friend Karen B was also in attendance at the Brisbane Writers Festival, slugging back premium blended whisky and sliders at the Kingsman: The Golden Circle preview screening, attending the opening nights of the 2017 Cine Latino Film Festival, the 2018 Italian Film Festival, Brisbane International Film Festival 2018, taking Karen to see Cher last year in concert, having stand-up Tom Gleeson share my review of his show on Facebook.

Some of the best shows I saw were Circa’s Humans, seeing Love/Hate Actually debut at Wonderland 2017England by Tim Crouch at Metro Arts, seeing The Duke by Shon Dale-Jones, Randy Writes A Novel by Randy Feltface, Tim Ferguson’s A Fast Life On Wheels and my first assignment with Scenestr reviewing Queensland Ballet’s Raw.

If you’re been along with me for part of the journey I hope you have enjoyed the ride, I thank you for your support and I hope to continue with you by my side. Two years ago this milestone seemed very distant if even possible and it has been one of the great joys of my life to have had this happen to me at 36 when I was feeling that life was kind of passing me by. I feel very grateful to my editors for their support and knowledge and to all our readers. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

http://scenestr.com.au/blog/Lloyd-Marken

Produced by Eyeball Media Enterprises Scenestr is an online national magazine with local offices around Australia. Having started in 1993 they’ve excelled at moving into the digital realm but they remain at heart from the streets. They still publish magazines in print for Western Australia, South Australia, New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland every month.

-Lloyd Marken

 

KING OF THIEVES REVIEW AVAILABLE ON WEEKEND NOTES

Weekend Notes 5.jpg

 

I am fortunate to have another review published with Weekend Notes this time for the new Michael Caine movie King of Thieves. The British Film Festival run by Palace Cinemas is currently doing the rounds across Australia, Palace Cinemas either in partnership or by themselves are responsible for several similar film festivals throughout the year. As cinema attendance shrinks, attendance at film festivals increases and as a long time film buff I enjoy attending them. Karen got me in to attend two films at this British Film Festival, My Generation (starring Michael Caine and produced by him) and King of Thieves. Of the two I preferred the documentary My Generation which saw Caine interviewing contemporaries and discussing what it was like to be part of Swinging London. King of Thieves is not without good intentions but I would suggest there have been better capers films such as the original The Italian Job. You can read my thoughts on King of Thieves here https://www.weekendnotes.com/king-of-thieves-film-review-british-film-festival/

Caine has long reached an age where we treasure his continued output and marvel at his work ethic. In My Generation he notes youth is not a time in life but a state of mind and it just seems to hint at his continued relevance. In My Generation there are shots where he driving in busy London in an expensive Ashton Martin and the camera includes wide shots to show he is driving and I like to imagine the producer Caine making a point to have these to show he is driving. I highly doubt it but I like to think it because he remains a man so capable so why not capture it. Lacking structure, the more My Generation goes on the less entertaining it becomes but there is some fascinating recaps of the time and the players involved and Caine remains Caine. A cockney boy who became a movie star, a movie star who remains a legend. God bless Mr Mickelwhite.

Weekend Notes are a growing online magazine with a wealth of contributors based out of several cities across the United Kingdom, Australia and New York. Articles are leisure related and can include a wide variety of subjects from rainforest hikes to cultural festivals, from what hot new play is on at your underground theatre to a ultra trendy eatery. Writers are paid for their work based partly on how many views their articles get so please feel free to stop by and show some love.

I feel very lucky to have reached in my first month the milestone of five reviews with Weekend Notes following my reviews for Woman at War, Ash Is Purest White, Arctic and Chasing Smoke.

-Lloyd Marken

ITALIAN FILM FESTIVAL OPENING NIGHT FEATURING ‘LORO’ REVIEW AVAILABLE ON SCENESTR

Scenestr105

 

Image result for days and clouds margherita buy

The first time I went to the Italian Film Festival was in 2008 and I asked Karen to come see with me Giorno E NuvoleDays and Clouds (2007). In the heady first weeks of dating Karen and I did not care for the film and did not care that we did not care for it. Just another date that’s real purpose was for us to be together. Centred around a well off middle aged couple declining to harder living conditions as the employment of the well establish husband is radically altered. Depressing and heartbreaking and all too real in the aftermath of the Global Financial Crisis. One thing that still remains with me years later is the power of the lead actress Margherita Buy.

 

Related image

In 2009 we decided to play it safer and went with Michael Winterbottom’s Genova starring Colin Firth as the father of two daughters and a widow who moves to Italy as an academic to provide a seachange. Well intentioned, with beautiful scenery and thoughtfulness it still proved for the most part unengaging to us.

 

Image result for we have a pope

Not trusting our own judgement we deferred to our friends in 2011 who had made good selections in the past for the French Film Festival and went to see Habemus PapumWe Have A Pope. Coming off a 10 minute standing ovation at the Cannes Film Festival that moved director Nanni Moretti to tears something must have been lost in translation because I laughed nor cried but I did fall asleep on the lazy sunday afternoon screening we went to.

This is no reflection on the film festival itself, if you look at the programs for the years we went you will see universally acknowledged modern classics and crowd pleasers. It seems we just had a bad run of luck or made poor decisions for own tastes. Following the wonderful opportunity to interview Palace CEO Benjamin Zeccola last year for Scenestr magazine about the 2017 Italian Film Festival, I thought for sure I would take him up on one of his recommendations and see maybe a comedy like War for Love but alas circumstances kept us from the film festival last year too.

This year the opportunity to attend opening night for Scenestr magazine came up and having had such a wonderful last year at the Brisbane opening night for the Cine Latino Film Festival I couldn’t wait to take Karen with me this time. The film was Loro, directed by Paolo Sorrentino who made easily one of my favourite films of 2015 Youth along with the fantastic This Must Be The Place (2011) and The Great Beauty (2013), the latter I watched in anticipation of seeing Loro. Loro is easily the best film Karen and I have seen at the Italian Film Festival and an interesting film that holds your attention for the most part. It re-teams Sorrentino with Toni Servillo who gives a fantastic performance as the magnetic Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. The opening half an hour becomes tedious despite its fireworks visuals and editing as it focusses on another character but when Servillo arrives the film grips. Upon reflection thought it comes across as some great ideas but lacking in overall vision. I suspect this is intended but I can’t say that excuses the lack of discipline. You can read more of my thoughts here http://scenestr.com.au/movies-and-tv/loro-italian-film-festival-brisbane-opening-night-review-20180921 but I cannot deny that the film lingers and Sorrentino remains one of my favourite directors to watch.

 

 

As for opening night itself, Karen and I had a wonderful time. There was a cheese table that had many a party goer hovering nearby, a live band, much wine and tasty h’orduvres making the rounds as the 2018 Lavazza Italian Film Festival kicked off in style. Grabbing our goodies bag though Karen and I eventually had to make our way home for me to start on my review. Our luck at the Italian Film Festival is definitely improving and there are plenty of wonderful films to check out this year yet.

Produced by Eyeball Media Enterprises, Scenestr is an online national magazine with local offices around Australia. Celebrating 25 years in 2018 of publishing history they’ve excelled at moving into the digital realm but they remain at heart from the streets. They still publish magazines in print for WA, SA, NSW, Vic and QLD every month. If you’re into music they’re a great read but they do cover all of the arts including festivals, stand-up comics, fashion, theatre and film. I feel very fortunate to get to write for them.

-Lloyd Marken

THE BIFF IS BACK – BIFF 2017 PART IV

Image result for brisbane international film festival 2017

 

 

Image result for that's not me

THAT’S NOT ME: This little Australian film directed by Gregory Erdstein is the kind of little local film that can be championed by home country festivals and boost them towards international deals. One of Karen’s picks I was still happy to go along and had solid hopes. If you’re keeping score all of Karen’s choices came a cropper and mine didn’t fare much better but I picked the best film of 2017 so there’s that. Karen still stands by The Party and I still don’t think it’s that great. We saw this film at Palace Centro Cinema 7, Thursday night at 6pm 31AUG2017 and grabbed some chow from a nearby Italian restaurant after.

Co-written and co-produced by star Alice Foulcher, who plays dual roles of aspiring actress Polly and her twin Amy also an actress who gets a big break and is off to Hollywood. Specialising in the kind of awkward understated character driven humour that Ricky Gervais made an industry out of, I admired a lot in this film but can’t say I really enjoyed it. I admired the work from Foulcher and the rest of the cast, to be natural in their performances and to play their roles as imperfect humans.

I liked the low production values that still lit atmospherically backyard townhouse parties favoured by young broke artists getting older every day. I liked how it was shot in L.A. and Victoria and showed how clearly without the 35mm film lenses of my childhood Hollywood more and more is just another pretty Pacific Ocean town not too different from where I live. As a comedy though I seldom laughed and as a character piece I found it more and more challenging to get caught up in the plight of this flawed character no matter how honest and real she was written and performed.

 

Image result for australia day film

AUSTRALIA DAY: Those who follow my blog will recall I covered with some excitement getting to review this film at BIFF for Scenestr magazine. Australia Day screened at 6pm, Palace Barracks Cinema 1 Saturday 02SEP2017 with BIFF 2017 closing down the following day. It turned out to be a great way to finish off BIFF 2017 with a good local film made here in Brisbane. As “press” I got to mingle at a party beforehand and by mingle I mean stand and chat to my wife. I did notice Hornblower himself – Iaon Gruffudd was present. BIFF 1.jpgAfter the film there was a Q&A with some cast, producers and director Kriv Stenders who also made the excellent closing night film of BIFF 2017 The Go-Betweens: Right Here which I later saw at Byron Bay. Kriv Stenders is one of the great modern directors of Australian cinema and the producers were local boys, of Hoodlum Productions, who had done good and were making their first feature film. Karen and I went to Libertines again afterwards for delicious crab sliders and other favourites where I noticed them celebrating with loved ones.

libertines.jpg
Libertines on the night of 2nd of September, 2017. Copyright Lloyd Marken.

You can read more of my recap of events here and my review of the film here but suffice to say it was a great way to end our attendance at the Brisbane International Film Festival 2017. Australia Day was a moving energetic film perhaps not subtle in its themes but I found it terribly effective and affecting. I put it in Honourable Mentions for my end of year list and I still stand by it. Getting to be on assignment for Scenestr at BIFF was a personal highlight and I was pleased everything went well.

 

All up Karen and I had seen 7 films, 2 from Asia (one animated from Japan and another from Vietnam), two films from the U.S. (one a documentary), two films from Australia and one film from Europe (in this case the U.K.) Not a bad collection and while only two really passed the grade with me they did so by a far margin. BIFF is returning in 2018 and I hope to share some memories with you about it soon. I also hope to write about my attendance at the Sydney Film Festival in 2008 at some point but we have come to the end for now of my recaps of past BIFFs. I hope you have enjoyed, I admit there is a nostalgic twinge for the ones of the previous decade that I do not get for 2017 but time moves on. You treasure memories and create new ones and I look forward to making many new BIFF ones. I will close by thanking Palace Cinemas once again for bringing back my beloved BIFF.

-Lloyd Marken

THE BIFF IS BACK – BIFF 2017 PART III

Image result for brisbane international film festival 2017

 

Some films arrive at Brisbane International Film Festival having won at Cannes or made a splash at Sundance and expectations can be high. Films like Chop Shop or 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days. Most come with some kind of buzz or recognition but you don’t know what film you’re really going to fall in love with until you see it. That was how it was like for me and the formerly mentioned and S21: The Khmer Rouge Killing Machine and Black Ice and The Love Crimes of Gillian Guess and Away From Her and Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work.

 

Image result for in this corner of the world

IN THIS CORNER OF THE WORLD: Again Mike was steering me to good things with his recommendation of Japanese animated films. On a whim I choose to see a Japanese animated film that was screening at BIFF 2017. On a quiet Sunday afternoon 27AUG2017 Karen and I arrived at Palace Barracks for a 12:45pm session and I saw the best film of the year. Set before and during World War II, it followed the story of one young girl’s personal growth into a woman set against the backdrop of Japan’s transformation during those years ending with the agony of defeat and the simple need to rebuild no matter the trauma if there is to be a better tomorrow. A film that took Japan 70 years to make but it is a timely reminder of the true losers in war and the hope that comes from tomorrow. I was later lucky enough to have my review of the film published in the magazine FilmInk but I never see truly happy with the words I use to recommend it. See it for yourself.

 

CITIZEN JANE: BATTLE FOR THE CITY: Monday night after work Karen and I went to Palace Centro Cinema 7 to see the American documentary Citizen Jane: Battle for the City at 6pm. Some good documentaries have screened at BIFF and Citizen Jane had a lot to say about rising populations and the urban housing projects of yesteryear. There are many lessons that could be learnt from the showdown between activitst Jane Jacobs and urban planner Robert Moses in mid-20th Century New York that is relevant to today. Yet as the film went on I found myself asking for a different viewpoint, it seemed the film lacked any nuance or alternative argument. It wanted to celebrate Jane and belabour these foolish men who had built buildings but torn down communities. A under-resourced but indomitable spirit and intelligent mind going up against big interest groups is compelling to be sure but I couldn’t help but feel there was more to it than that. That Jane Jacobs had got it right and if not for her efforts we would have lost out more but why she had to fight, whether there were good intentions gone wrong there, what the solutions ultimately are for us now in the 21st century I felt the film could have gotten into a bit more. By not presenting somebody from the other side arguing their case you don’t really have a debate that you win. Just an echo chamber that feeds your narrative. Still maybe I was tired, I think I may have nodded off for a little and it wasn’t a bad film by an means.

 

Image result for the way station film

THE WAY STATION: Wednesday night 30AUG2017, 6pm we went to Palace Barracks Cinema 1 for The Way Station from Vietnam. Trumpeted it as a seminal moment in the history of the Vietnamese film industry it was a gala screening we attended. Directed by Hong Anh a famous actress in Vietnam it won best film, best actor and best cinematography at the ASEAN film awards. Not bad for her feature debut. It follows the story of a young man who gets work in the kitchen at a small restaurant and starts to learn the secrets of the compound he lives and works in. It was a passion project for Hong Anh and it deals with ideas of gender, sex and family. We had a Q&A afterwards with Hong Anh and 2017 Festival Co-Director Maxine Williamson and something that impressed was her discussion of how to shoot the space of the restaurant.  For me they did a great job of keeping it interesting, maintaining clear sense of geography and also bringing forth such a strong sense of place that it almost becomes another character. In some ways this a tragic story and I can’t deny that it was not one of my favourites but it was shot well, had interesting ideas and took me to another small pocket of the world I had never been in which I what I love best about the films I see at BIFF. Afterwards we came outside to eat food put on by the nearby Libertines which Karen and I both love. These included little bamboo boats with mushrooms dumplings inside them.

-Lloyd Marken

THE BIFF IS BACK – BIFF 2017 PART II

Image result for brisbane international film festival 2017

 

The Brisbane International Film Festival‘s triumphant return in 2017 included many features long missed. There was a Baltic spotlight, short films, world premieres, a showcase of Masters, opening and closing night film (The Square and The Go-Betweens: Right Here which I was lucky enough to see at the Byron Bay Film Festival and placed in my Top 5 Films of last year) and a retrospective on Russian director Andrey Zvyagintsev which included Return, The Banishment, Elena and Leviathan with at its centrepiece  his latest film Loveless. Buying tickets we wanted to cast a wide net and I also wanted Karen to get some picks in plus schedule around our jobs. We missed The Baltic Spotlight also in the running was Ali’s Wedding, Loving Vincent (Karen has since seen it), Maudie and Loveless (alas two Canadian films too including one directed by Bruce McDonald who did The Love Crimes of Gillian Guess from BIFF 2005), Last Men in Aleppo and Returnee from Kazakhstan (just the type of obscure foreign film that can transport you to another place on Earth at street level so to speak), Aussie flick Watch the Sunset and Karen was keen on My Year with Helen. Saw none of them but I was very grateful to be back at BIFF seeing multiple films. It perhaps should be noted that beyond the focus of a film festival most of these films missed I have not gotten around to seeing which I think there is something in that. A film festival really elevates and spotlights interesting movies.

 

Image result for leviathan film

The Leviathan: Screening Sunday 20AUG2018 at 10:30am in Palace Centro Cinema 7 was this movie which I proudly chose and bought tickets to see on the big screen. But alas while going to opening night on Thursday, seeing a Chekov play Uncle Vanya for Scenestr on Friday night after work and heading along to my first Impromafia show Lord of the Thrones on Saturday night for Scenestr and writing the reviews I noted we were running late Sunday morning and decided to give it a miss. All my old BIFF traditions were in full force. I’ve heard it’s great and will be interested to hear if any of my fellow bloggers have seen it and what they think.

 

THE PARTY: This was one of Karen’s choices (although it had been on my shortlist) which we went to see late Wednesday night 23AUG2018 at The Palace Barracks Cinema 1 at 8:15pm. It was the ninth anniversary of the first date I went on with Karen. So we had dinner beforehand at Libertine restaurant which included delicious crab sliders, beef san choi bao and delicious cocktails.

The Party shot in black and white and directed by Sally Potter follows a dinner party of well to do privileged members of class celebrating the hostess Janet (Kristin Scott Thomas) having ascended into the parliament ministry. Of course as the guests arrive simmering tensions come to the boil from old friends, partners and unexpected guests. Just describing it gets me all excited about the possibilities but alas I found the characters for the most part unlikeable and the comedy lacking. One of those films where people think they are cleverer and funnier than what they actually are and more is the pity given the extraordinary cast including Patricia Clarkson, Emily Mortimer, Cillian Murphy and Timothy Spall but there you have it. Karen on the other hand loved it so they’ve got that going for them.

 

Image result for fun mom dinner

FUN MOM DINNER: Now to another of Karen’s choices in the form of a comedy from America starring the amazingly talented Toni Collette in what has to be arguably the worst movie I saw last year and probably one of the worst if not worst films I ever at the Brisbane International Film Festival. It was Friday 25AUG2018 at 6pm Palace Centro Cinema 7.

20170825_175632
After some of the renovations to Palace Centro, just in time for BIFF 2017. Copyright Lloyd Marken.

Okay it’s a film about mums having a night out on the town, a more mature and nuanced attempt at the premise of Bad Moms except well that film was funnier and better. Sorry. I admire the ambition to go deeper in terms of characterisation but the film is trying to have it both way by remaining a broad comedy. Classic example, two Mums don’t like each other so they light up a joint and hilarity and reconciliation ensues. Except it doesn’t. Bridget Everett’s character ran the gamut between being obnoxiously opinionated and bossy (at both the beginning and end – did her character learn nothing during the course of the story) and honest and profound at tother times. The only shining light was Molly Shannon’s take on a older divorcee trying to find her way back to true confidence and happiness. There are good ideas but close to zero good execution. Even in the most lacklustre films I’ve seen at BIFF I”ve been able to defend the ambition and lack of funds of new filmmakers, originality of ideas, the transformative ability of taking me to another culture and landscape. Maybe I’m harsher on Fun Mom Dinner because it takes me to California, had the benefit of some money and is totally unoriginal but when I think of the worst film I saw last year this always comes to mind. Bad Mommy, Bad Mommy and not in a fun way.

-Lloyd Marken

 

THE BIFF IS BACK – BIFF 2017 OPENING NIGHT

Image result for brisbane international film festival 2017

 

It was Karen who texted me that BIFF had ceased to exist years ago and it was Karen who texted me that BIFF was back on last year. It kind of struck at the right time and enthused to show what support I could, Karen and I bought a few tickets and I finally went to the Opening Night of the Brisbane International Film Festival. Palace Cinemas came on board as major partner of the Brisbane International Film Festival 2017 effectively making it possible and making it happen in short turnaround. In some circles this has been criticised for compromising smaller community led events with commercialisation. As cinemagoing dwindles in Australia and other countries, film festivals have remained lucrative and seen an increase in numbers.

20170817_185510
At Palace Barracks early for Opening Night. Copyright Lloyd Marken.

Palace cinemas has been at the forefront of this.  I’m of two minds when it comes to this but for me it really boils down to the fact that without Palace cinemas we may not have seen the return of BIFF at all. On opening night at BIFF 2017, Antonio Zeccola was thanked and given credit for making the return of BIFF possible. It made me feel very privileged to have had the opportunity to thank his son Benjamin, CEO of Palace Cinemas, earlier for the return of BIFF. This is personal for me having been a long time attendee and former volly and while I would not want it to be not without business considerations and ambitions for the Zeccolas but I feel that it is personal for them too. They are business people yes but they have made their business cinema and it appears that has been borne out of their ongoing love for the art form.

The 23rd Brisbane International Film Festival ran from the 17th August to the 3rd of September (moving it back closer to the time of year it used to run) showcasing over 60 films from Australia and the rest of the world. There were the two  venues of Palace Barracks and Palace Centro. There were no volunteers and the staff listing was significantly smaller than the years I was a volly. This was seen as a re-launch and a testing of the viability of BIFF. As much as things had changed though, as much as my heart aches at fond memories of the Regent and my twenty something self racing around excitedly, BIFF 2017 was a wonderful experience for me and proof that we turn over to new pages and begin anew.

 

Related image

THE SQUARE: Opening night I came from work to meet Karen and her best friend Erin to watch The Square. Winner of the Palme d’Or at Cannes earlier that year I was more entranced with the film than the girls. Directed by Ruben Ostlund it tells the story of a museum curator who gets caught up in a series of escalating situations. Pointing a finger at the contradictions of art, wealth, altruism and gender tropes I found it riveting although the conclusion was underwhelming for me.

20170817_222852
The thoroughfare after the screening. Copyright Lloyd Marken.

The thoroughfare where years earlier we had eaten at the Gala screening for Copacabana in 2010 was now jumping with people again. There was champagne when we arrived and later when we came out there was a board of donuts hanging on pegs. Appearing like an art installation several minutes passed before some brave soul grabbed one off a peg and chomped it down but once that happened people quickly got the idea. Delicious.

20170817_220810
Karen with a doughnut. We may or may not have had more than one each. Copyright Lloyd Marken.

There was a bath tub with glitter balls in the middle of the thoroughfare and a dancer inside a bubble. From the official website there is a picture of me grabbing something delicious.

BIFF Opening Night
Courtesy of BIFF 2017 website.
20170817_215424
Copyright Lloyd Marken.
20170817_215422
Copyright Lloyd Marken.

 

I went upstairs and stood in line for a caricature portrait. As I was sketched I talked to my renderer about the struggle to be an artist and pursue that in a way to make a living out of it. It was a really good conversation and I was well pleased when he handed me a very handsome looking portrait. Karen and Erin though criticised it for not looking like me at all. Given the handsome visage I saw before me I was not pleased with this response. I ask you to be the judge.

20170818_000003

Walking around I saw what appeared to be a few familiar faces from BIFFs gone by that I was happy to see there. Time marches on, things change but BIFF was finally back and I couldn’t be happier.

-Lloyd Marken

 

20170817_190140
Copyright Lloyd Marken.

 

BRINGING BACK BIFF – BIFF 2008 PART V

BIFF 2008

 

When I planned what I was going to see at BIFF 2008 I intended to go to a seminar and ten years later I can’t be certain but I think it was DIY- Distribution: Maximise Your Chances of Festival Success! on Saturday 9 August at GoMA Cinema B. It’s possible burnt out and tired I didn’t go. It’s possible I arrived late. It’s possible I went and it was great. So I’m putting it here. These are all about memories, sliding too much into a journal of free flowing thoughts and feelings. Hardly prose for public consumption but you have kindly indulged me and I guess even these confused meanderings are something taken on the record now before they become more faded.

The idea of this series though is not supposed to be about self musing besides a little light nostalgic fondling. It’s about a Film Festival in my home town that was so special to have and to celebrate whatever memories I have. To make a case for why these film festivals are important for creating communities of like minded patrons but also dreamers and makers who have a platform to be inspired by or even to showcase their work. I hoped to show that by saying how good it was to be a Volly, to showcase local filmmakers getting a big launch for their debut and to point out all these films I saw that I would’ve skipped past on the shelf at my local video store or now streaming content displayed on my screen. Ask around, see how many people have seen Hunger even if they’ve seen Shame or 12 Years A Slave? Ask if they’ve seen a film from India or Romania in the past year or even 10? The only Romanian film I’ve seen I saw at BIFF 2007 and it was amazing! Even average films took me to the Chinese countryside or Korean cities or Mali courtrooms. The great ones made me reconsider my life and our place in the world.

When I set out to write this series BIFF was gone, which we’ll get to shortly, and then in 2017 it came back and I want to celebrate it and bring new fans in and make others appreciate their own local film festivals or get involved in organisations that create similar opportunities where they live. Let me know if I’m doing that even a little and no…I still can’t be sure if I went to the seminar but I’m glad there was one.

 

IRMA VEP: If I did go to the seminar then the next thing I went to Saturday 09AUG2008 was Irma Vep as part of the Olivier Assayas program at Palace Centro 1 at 4:20pm. I went and saw this with my friend, work colleague and pimp Karen B who kindly set up me to meet her friend Karen earlier that week. I’m sad to report that I remember a lot about Irma Vep but not much of the plot. It was an interesting film about film making and featured Maggie Cheung in a very engaging performance and a tight black leather costume at times which I suspect was part of the reason why I was happy to see it. I can’t speak for Karen.

 

THREE BLIND MICE: Finally we get to the final day of BIFF 2008. I went and saw Three Blind Mice at Palace Centro 1 with my sister Nadia at 2:30pm. A film I’d been interested in but missed at the 2008 Sydney Film Festival, it was a great movie and solid directorial debut from actor Matthew Newton. It centres on three Royal Australian Navy officers (Ewen Leslie, Toby Schmitz, Newton) spending their last night of freedom in the city of Sydney before reporting for duty at their ship the next day. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen the film and I don’t know how accurate it would come across to me now with military details but it is more and more a relevant subject matter. The men are shipping out for the Middle East yes but this is not about one last grab for freedom before the gloom of war. One of these men is haunted already and there is a tension between the three bubbling away. This is not a film about combat but about abuse. Abuse by those in positions of power and authority. That happens in the military as it happens in every part of society but it is particularly painful when considering that those who are abused are usually some of the most idealistic, patriotic, loyal and selfless people we are lucky to have put up their hands to possibly face death on our behalf. Newton was available in a Q&A afterwards with other cast members and spoke about how he couldn’t think of anything more horrible then being away on a boat surrounded by ocean and trapped with someone doing the wrong thing.

The film effectively conveys this central theme while also being a healthy exploration of masculinity within a humorous night on the town story as well. A top notch cast of Australian talent including Pia Miranda, Brendan Cowell, Alex Dimitriades, Marcus Graham, Bob Franklin, Gracie Otto, Barry Otto, Jacki Weaver and Bud Tingwell. Shot on Digibeta too the film has that nice edge of verisimilitude while also capturing Sydney at night in a beautiful way.

S/W Ver: 99.31.08R
Matt Newton at the Q&A for Three Blind Mice. Copyright Lloyd Marken.

 

Newton is the son of Australian television and entertainment royalty Bert and Patti Newton and was already flying high following films like Looking for Alibrandi. His partner Gracie Otto was there at the Q&A having edited Matt’s writing/directing effort and co-starred. Matt was a charming and thoughtful speaker about his film and his cast. There’s no denying his talent…So I don’t know if its ironic or not to add that a man who made a strong film about bullying and the pain it causes had several incidents of assault first reported with his long time girlfriend Brooke Satchwell in 2006, later with girlfriend Rachael Taylor (her work in Jessica Jones must be informed by her experiences) in 2010 and hotel staff and police. Newton was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and checked into rehab. I wish him the best but I’m glad to see the strong women he hurt have survived and flourished with their careers and lives in the after mark of what would have been very painful incidents. I like Three Blind Mice and I don’t pretend to know everything about anybody but I just thought I should let you know these things when considering whether you want to see the film.

 

Image result for boarding gate filmBOARDING GATE: After the Q&A for Three Blind Mice I went outside and said goodbye to my sister before meeting up with Brian to watch Boarding Gate kicking off at 5:10pm back inside Palace Centro 1. Boarding Gate starred Asia Argento who I knew from XXX and who was actually a real life hero by then even if the rest of the world didn’t know it for years yet. The French film directed by Olivier Assayas started Argento as a former hooker meeting up with ex-boss and lover played by Michael Madsen. Argento gave it all her and there was some great location shooting in Paris and Hong Kong but I’m not sure if I can tell it was a great film or even what I recall happened in the end. Brian did notice thought that Madsen in one scene cleared all contents off a table surface just like he did in Thelma and Louise suggesting it was a go to move of his. Certainly Madsen’s scenes stayed in my memory and seemed to have given the film some electricity.

 

Image result for what we do is secret

WHAT WE DO IS SECRET: The last film I saw at BIFF 2008 was What We Do Is Secret at Palace Centro 2 at 8:40pm. I think Brian and I grabbed a bite to eat beforehand. There were always a section of films/docos related to music in every BIFF program and I always wanted to go see one of those and so I managed in 2008. What We Do Is Secret directed by Rodger Grossman is about the late 1970s LA punk scene, about The Germs and about their lead singer the late Darby Crash. If you know about one of those 3 three things or are a fan of them there should be something in this film for you. For me there was not any of those things but I was impressed by Shane West’s performance as Crash having seen him previously on the show Once & Again.

I saw 21 films at the 17th Brisbane International Film Festival and one seminar or at least watched whole 20 films and maybe went to a seminar. Of the 20 films I stayed awake for there was Hunger (U.K.), The Battle of Algiers (Algeria/Italy), Alvin Purple (Australia), Diary of the Dead (U.S.), Late August, Early September (France), Cargo 200 (Russia), Four Women (India), The Man From Hong Kong (Australia/Hong Kong), Small Gods (Belgium), Wendy and Lucy (U.S.), Chop Shop (U.S.), Katyn (Poland), Raja 1918 (Finland), Stone (Australia), The Visitor (U.S.), Black Ice (Finland/Germany), Irma Vep (France), Three Blind Mice (Australia), Boarding Gate (France), What We Do Is Secret (U.S.) and quite a few short films screening in there as well with some features. That was 1 film from Africa, 2 films from Asia, 4 films from Australia (including 3 Ozploitation classics), 5 films from America and 10 films from Europe (3 of them directed by Olivier Assayas).

Never again would I see so many films in such a short span of time, I like to think when I retire I’d like to do it but getting to retirement and having that kind of cash in it seem very unlikely these days. It was an indulgence and you’re lucky if you get one in a lifetime. I still saw front of house staff and talked briefly with Andre about how I had been a gopher on a B-grade action flick shot on the Gold Coast the previous year. He was looking to make his own movie and I kindly came into possession of the BIFF booklet that have been featured at the beginning of these BIFF 2008 posts. BIFF 2008 was jam packed full of great films and memories but the stand out was meeting a beautiful girl on the steps of Palace Centro.

-Lloyd Marken

BRINGING BACK BIFF – BIFF 2008 PART III

BIFF 2008

 

A few weeks before BIFF 2008 one of my work colleagues at QUT came into the front office. We asked her about her weekend as you do on a Monday morning and she mentioned she had been to the High Tea in town. She showed us a couple of photos which included one where and she and one her companions went to a make-up stand and got done up. There was also a group photo from before that. I sat there thinking that she and her companion looked beautiful in both photos but that the companion looked better in the first photo before the make-up stand. Her companion was really beautiful to me. After a few minutes my colleague thought out loud “Actually I think Karen might look better in the before photo.” to which I blurted out “Yeah!”.

It’s funny how one sentence can change the trajectory of your life but my work colleague picked up on this reaction and mused. “Actually you worked in hospitals and Karen works as a speech pathologist and you both like movies.” I had been single for 8 years. Don’t get me wrong there had been women in my life, some of them truly wonderful and some that I wish I had been better with, as I often would say “I”ve had dates and mistakes but no girlfriends.” Little did I know I had just seen a picture of my next girlfriend. I also look back on my 20s as being part of two social groups. One group of perpetually single men and one group of long term couples. As a result I’ve always tried to introduce my single friends to each other but in the end I think people just have to connect on their own. I did not, I was helped by this work colleague enormously. She was the same person who remarked I was not going to be able to get to Alvin Purple before it started. Knowing that I was going to a lot of films she must have known there was a good chance of running into me at BIFF. How well she planned I do not know but it came to be she was going to Palace Cinemas the same night I was the 4th of August. She mentioned we might run into each other and that this Karen would be there. The stage was set.

Related image

SMALL GODS: I left work early to get to a 4:30pm showing of Small Gods from Belgium at 4:30pm. Directed by Dimitri Karakatsanis it was essentially a road trip movie with a dream like quality to it, a low budget film with beautiful shots of the surrounding landscapes. I struggle to remember a lot except that it was good.

When I came out of the cinema I looked over at the waiting area and there was this Karen off in the distance. I darted off down the stairs into the men’s room where I sprayed copious amounts of Lynx Accelerate and wet my hair to slick it back and up. I was wearing a vest and overweight. Maybe I had a suit jacket too, who knows. I went back up to find them and ran into my work colleague also named Karen on the stairs who called out to me. We stood and spoke on the stairs when Karen came up to us with a bunch of doughnuts. When asked how they were, she said not very good. She was beautiful in person as she was in her photos. I tried to play it cool and maybe this worked to my advantage. Weeks later she saw me waiting with flowers on our first date and just thought I looked so adorable. They were there for a gala screening of Caramel from Lebanon in Palace 1. This was quite fortunate as it didn’t mean they were going into the same cinema as I exited and meant there was more time maybe. I had never gone to a gala screening preferring to save my money for more movie tickets although often during BIFF 2008 I would go and eat at the restaurants near Palace Centro. We talked for a while and then they went off to their movie.

Apparently Karen told Karen B “That she thought I was cute and had she considered dating me.” to which Karen B burst out in laughter. Karen decided I was probably gay. I went downstairs and called my best friend Mike and talked for several minutes. The whole experience had been kind of nerve wracking but having gone through it I now revelled in the excitement. I decided I needed to get out there more and meet people. I went to a restaurant nearby and ate dinner, writing reviews and stories in my notebook trying to look interesting and artistic in case the Karens came back down before I went in to see Wendy and Lucy at 9:30pm in Palace Centro 2. According to the program the next film in Palace 1 was at 9:10pm but I did not see come across them again before going in to Wendy and Lucy. Maybe I missed them in the crowd, maybe they were long gone, I have no memory except of delicious food on a table from the gala.

So the stairwell holds a lot of sentimentality for my wife and I. I even got to mention where I met my wife to Palace CEO Benjamin Zeccola last year who as a bit of a romantic was pleased to hear that a couple had met in one of his cinemas. I have a lot of wonderful memories of BIFF too, for me I mostly think of my Volly days first and foremost but it is true that I met my wife at BIFF 2008.

 

Image result for wendy and lucy

WENDY AND LUCY: From America this showed a game Michelle Williams of Dawson Creek fame (she’s gone on to other things since then) playing Wendy who ends up homeless in Oregon. Lucy is her dog, a prized companion and where she can spill  all her emotions on to. Shot on location with minimum fuss but classic framing from director Kelly Reichardt this is a film that captures the fragility and vulnerability of those who slip through the cracks in our society and how a little kindness or cruel indifference can change fortunes. It’s a need for the mundanity of real life pacing gave it an authentic feel but also made it a meandering depressing experience for the most part. One of those films where you respect the message and the craft on display but don’t necessarily recommend it as a stirring piece of entertainment either.

 

Image result for Chop Shop 2007

CHOP SHOP: Tuesday 05AUG2008 at 6:30pm in Palace 1 again I went and saw Chop Shop which I thought was going to be in some third world but was actually set in poor areas outside of New York city. The Iron Triangle in Queens with a large sports stadium looming in the background sometimes. Unlike Wendy and Lucy, Chop Shop was a far more engaging affair investing in conventional narrative while also capturing real life people from the area on film. Director Ramin Bahrani who co-write it as well did an excellent job telling the story of a young boy named Ale who is trying to etch out a living with his sister Izzy in the area with little education or prospects. These are survivors, fighters who never feel sorry for themselves and have pride. All the more heartbreaking then to live in the reality of their situation or seem them come undone by circumstances. A neorealistic take, I don’t know the life stories of the central performers but their real life names Alejandro Polanco and Isamar Gonzales are the same as their characters. It’s been ten years, I wonder where they are. Somehow I am hopeful, these people have more intelligence and self-reliance then I could ever hope to develop. One of the best films of the year.

-Lloyd Marken